The City of Adelaide calls in to the Thames on its way to Australia

City of Adelaide at Gillingham

My thanks to River Thames Photos for this shot of the clipper ship City of Adelaide arriving at Gillingham on her historic voyage to Australia.

For many years the 1864 clipper has stood rusting on a slipway at Irvine in Scotland – a neglect that seems incredible, but after years of wrangling she’s now to be looked after on the other side of the world. I hope they make a wonderful job of it!

The Australians’ interest in the City of Adelaide is that she carried so many emigrants from the British Isles to a new life in the country in a series of 29 regular voyages. Huge numbers of Australians are said to be descended from her passengers.

National Historic Ships UK and the weblog The Liquid Highway both have more information on the ship.

Buckingham Palace has announced that before the City of Adelaide leaves, she will take part in a celebration ceremony on the 18th October at Greenwich with the Duke of Edinburgh, close by that other clipper ship, the Cutty Sark. Details of the event, which is also a renaming ceremony (from Carrick back to City of Adelaide) are here.

The Duke has long had an interest in such things – we don’t have to be great fans of royalty to think it is worth remembering that in 1951 the Cutty Sark Preservation Trust was formed by the Duke and the then-director of the National Maritime Museum, Frank Carr. Here’s a clip of him visiting the Cutty Sark in 1953.

While I’m delighted that she is to be cared for by the Australians who have so much reason to venerate her, I think we should have very mixed feelings about the whole issue. It’s obviously sad to see her leave the country that built her but I can’t help reflecting on all those years of shameful neglect here in the UK. No doubt the Duke will have a salty remark or two to make about the issue…

Pete Goss’s Spirit of Mystery is for sale


Photos by Mark Lloyd

Spirit of Mystery, the 37ft Mounts Bay lugger that sailing racer and adventurer Pete Goss had built to sail to Australia is for sale.

Pete used the boat to recreate the famous voyage of the fishing lugger Mystery, in which a group of seven Cornishmen led by Captain Richard Nicholls sailed to the distant colony to find work and prosperity in 1854/5. They were all related and had shares in the boat, and the legend is that Captain Nicholls agreed to make the voyage after a few drinks…

Back then, the Mystery became the smallest migrant vessel ever to make the journey.

Apart from successfully recreating the Mystery voyage, the Spirit of Mystery has history built into her – Goss sourced a piece of oak from Nelson’s Victory to make up the chart table, teak from the Cutty Sark forms part of the saloon table and an original rivet from the SS Great Britain is a cupboard handle.

Built in Cornish oak and larch by Cornish boat builder Chris Rees, Spirit of Mystery has four main berths, a pilot berth, toilet, gas cooker and wood-burning stove, and is a comfortable cruiser. She has also shown she can take some very heavy weather – following a knock-down in the Southern Ocean she rolled back up and carried on sailing.

Goss says he is sad to see her go, but is moving on to a  new adventure. ‘I always thought that Spirit would be the boat I grew old with when I gave up major adventures – one that Tracey and I would take cruising when we retire.

‘But with a new adventure in the pipeline and no time to use her, it is time for her to go to a new home. Hopefully it will be to an owner that loves and cherishes her as I have done and if it is also one that keeps the story alive then so much the better.’

Spirit of Mystery is lying in Plymouth and is for sale for £80,000 (tax paid). There is more information about her at the website

Dale Appleton photos from the Geelong Wooden Boat Festival 2012


Dale Appleton dropped into the Wooden Boat Festival at Geelong, Australia the other day, and tells me he’ll send over a brief report soon. In the meantime he has put some photos on his Flickr account, including these of the newly restored Ruby Merle, a Port Philip Couta boat.

Dale reports that the restoration work is a fantastic job.

Noticing the leather on the gaff jaws, he had this to say: ‘A detail that struck me: kangaroo leather is the choice material for gaff jaws and other high wearing points. If you have ever seen two kangaroos fight, you will understand just why the leather is so tough.’

Nice shots Dale – many thanks for them! More photos of Couta boats taken by Dale can be found in an earlier post.